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For 11-year-old cancer fighter, a simple wish: to be a teen

When 11-year-old Emma Smith was writing down her dreams for the future, she thought about what she wants to be when she grow up: A teenager.
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Emma Smith at her Saanich home in September. The 11-year-old was recovering from a long bout of chemotherapy to remove a malignant tumour in her brain when she learned the cancer had returned and was affecting her spine.

When 11-year-old Emma Smith was writing down her dreams for the future, she thought about what she wants to be when she grow up: A teenager.

It’s a simple wish from a sixth grader who has been through more in the past two years than most people go through in a lifetime.

The Saanich girl was just on the mend last month after a long bout of chemotherapy to remove the malignant tumour in her brain, discovered on Oct. 1, 2012, when her parents learned the cancer had returned, affecting her spine.

Emma’s treatment has been delayed because her platelet levels are too low for chemotherapy — they have to be over 100 and at the last test they were at 47, said her father, Darrell Smith.

“It’s just a waiting game.”

Smith was overseas working for a telecommunications company when he heard Emma’s cancer had returned, and had to make an emergency flight home. He and his wife, Diane, are not working as they focus on Emma’s health, which has put a financial strain on the family.

Emma is “finding it quite hard this time because she knows what it’s like to go through chemotherapy and everything,” he said. “So she’s definitely not looking forward to that. She’s scared.”

She has been too weak to attend Cloverdale Traditional School, which is hard for the voracious reader who loves being in the classroom with her friends. Emma has been suffering from sharp pains throughout her body that she describes as shocks.

Emma was a junior rider for this year’s Tour de Rock, which raises money for pediatric cancer research through the Canadian Cancer Society, but her illness forced her to miss the team’s homecoming on Oct. 3.

A small consolation is the steady stream of former Tour riders who have visited Emma, including Saanich police school liaison officer Const. Heather Hunter and her husband, Saanich police Const. Matt Morin, who recently dropped by the house in uniform with his police dog, Grimm.

“I think that the whole family benefits from the visits because it takes some of the emphasis off the sickness,” Hunter said.

Emma “knows that she is loved and we are thinking of her and that the Tour family is just that, an extended family.”

Ailsa Wright, the wife of West Shore RCMP Sgt. Steve Wright, a 2014 Tour rider, has been rallying support and raising funds in their hometown of Sooke.

Last week, she arrived at the family’s home with a basket of makeover supplies to pamper Emma and her mom before a family photo shoot.

The Smiths’ neighbours are having a bottle drive to raise money. People can drop bottles off at 1280 Palmer Rd. in Saanich from Nov. 4 -11.

Donations can be made to the Emma Smith Trust at any Van City credit union.